Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pray for this Retreat, please!

{ A priest friend asked for input as he prepares a retreat for suspended priests. I publish the letter here asking prayers for the retreat. The references to “Catherine” are to the Servant of God Catherine Doherty: }

Dear Father,

I have been praying deeply about the retreat ever since we chatted last fall and more and more this is what is very clear in my heart:

Every morning the first part of my prayer each day is to beg the grace of oneness with Jesus in the Desert, in the Garden and on the Cross and that He pour His Precious Blood upon myself and all priests that we be good and holy. In fact, ever since the very evening of my ordination and concelebration with the Bishop, the four priests ordained with me and all the other priests there, at the elevation of the chalice at the consecration I have prayed that same prayer. I still do in every Mass I celebrate.

In some very mysterious and yes profound way suspended priests who, like all priests are ordained in this immense gift and mystery of Christ our Priest, - well it just seems to my heart we are asked to enter profoundly into that suffering of Christ, or rather that aspect of His Wounded Heart, connected to the experience of the “absence” of any support from the Father, such as in the Garden and on the Cross, every dimension of rejection on the “human” level and a type of solitude in spiritual warfare such as Jesus experienced in the desert, the garden and on the Cross.

True this suffering does have an emotional component but I am struggling to articulate here the profound suffering in the depths of the heart and soul of priests being invited to be one with Christ in His own suffering.

It seems to my heart that this oneness means embracing a depth of powerlessness and poverty very hard to explain in words other than, perhaps, to suggest that we priests who are in this agony, and I don’t believe there is much difference in the pain for those suspended because of actual guilt or those suspended yet innocent, have been given an extraordinary gift, if we say fiat: absolute oneness with the rejected, lonely, suffering Jesus – to truly, beyond anything we can perhaps even grasp fully, be oblation with Him.

So I believe the following will comfort and strengthen our suffering brothers: a] oneness with Jesus in this mystery of suffering contains a willingness to embrace the gift of hiddenness, hence as Catherine always stressed we must go to Nazareth; b] oneness with Jesus in the desert is to focus not on self but on intercession and atonement, struggling against evil spirits in, with, Jesus for the salvation of souls and all other “intentions” we carry in our hearts or we are asked to pray for; c] oneness with Jesus in the garden is to embrace the joy of suffering with Him, to comfort Him to be sure but also in a humble state [without introspection] of personal repentance and atonement and for all priests, the Church, for souls – it is also to embrace the same not knowing/understanding/darkness, as Jesus did, with the help as in all things of Our Blessed Mother, to willingly embrace whatever depths of agony we are invited into that we might also cry out sincerely with Jesus the truth if possible we’d prefer not to have this ‘chalice’ but because we are beloved of the Father and love the Father we surrender to His Most Holy, Tender, Will; d] oneness with Jesus on the cross, for me, is rooted in the love, hope, trust, joy Catherine presents to us, as well as the pain, in her meditations on the stations of the Cross, in particular the 3rd, where she presents words from Jesus to encourage us and the 10th where she reminds us of His absolute embrace of poverty, of being stripped of everything as part of His self-gift offering for our salvation.

I don’t doubt that embracing the blessing of the 10th station [ which for we suffering priests means a profound letting go of innumerable ‘human’ expectations regarding justice, compassion, dignity, etc., etc.] is the toughest ‘place’ to truly have union of hearts, the wounded Heart of Christ and our own broken hearts – but – I believe, for I do remember your powerfully teaching the truth Christ IS risen, we will only ‘taste’ the resurrection joy of suffering IF we struggle to have oneness with His Heart in His absolute poverty and powerlessness, such as shown in the light of the 3rd and 10th stations.

You know the immense emotional stress and devastation I have and do experience yet I do sincerely, strongly, stress this mystery of joy – I can’t explain it and it is not granted to me 24/7, only very rarely, as oddly in this moment while I write to you, but I tell you Father truthfully it is a tremendous blessing and joy, even though the way I have come to this is not of my own choosing. To be a priest freed from anything and everything other than simply being oblation with Him, freed from administration, freed from clerical gossip and intrigue, freed from all the burdens of being an active pastor to spend my life, or rather pour my life out, in oneness with Him in the desert, garden, on the cross, ultimately this is an incredible gift! It is joy!

So that is what I would address: dear brothers step beyond the suspension and how it came about, step beyond the hurt etc., step beyond self and into the depths of His Sacred Heart, His Priesthood, being one, by grace and the help of our Blessed Mother, with Him, in the hiddenness of Nazareth, in the desert, in the garden, on the cross – this is love and pain, pain and joy, intercession and atonement – this is living in Him, with Him, through Him for Him.

Catherine gave me, quoting Col. 3:11, as word for my priesthood: Christ is everything.
Sure I ‘believed’ that and referred to it constantly, but only now am I beginning to live it, because ‘all’ else has been taken away!

My final word then is I pray somehow you can help our brothers to see what a grace this suffering is and that they will say fiat!